Syracuse goes for its fourth win in a row when it seeks revenge for an earlier season loss against Notre Dame (7:00 p.m. ET / ESPN2) on Wednesday. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Saugat Sen and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
SAUGAT SEN (Season Record 1-1): Syracuse’s 88-87 loss against Notre Dame earlier in January went just as the Irish had planned. John Mooney dominated the Orange with 28 points and 14 rebounds. Meanwhile, Bourama Sidibe was dominated inside, finishing with only two points and six rebounds.
A lot has change since that loss. Syracuse is now on a three-game winning streak and are currently tied for fifth place in the ACC. Lost in the hype of Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim’s stellar performances is Marek Dolezaj’s solid contributions during the streak.
In the last five games, Dolezaj is averaging 9.4 points, 10 rebounds and 3.8 assists and has been the dependable asset on both ends of the floor that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has needed.
Syracuse will need to have have an answer to slow down Mooney, and I expect Sidibe to give a better performance down low and Hughes and Boeheim to continue their hot shooting outside. A third straight double-double for Dolezaj should not be out of question either, with Syracuse topping Notre Dame 78-74.
WES CHENG (Season Record 8-2): Since Notre Dame defeated Syracuse on Jan. 4, the Irish have played three games that have been decided by a combined 12 points, resulting in a 1-2 record. The Fighting Irish missed a chance for a statement win against then-No. 13 Louisville, erasing a 36-24 deficit, but failing to close out in the final minutes.
John Mooney has continued to be a double-double machine since the teams met three weeks ago, and is averaging a team-leading 15.4 points and 13.9 rebounds per game, and the Irish come in averaging 39.8 rebounds per game.
Both factors played a role in Notre Dame’s 88-87 win, with Mooney going off for 28 points and 14 rebounds, and Notre Dame collecting 17 offensive rebounds, part of a +3 day on the glass.
The difference in this game may be the recent play of Syracuse big man Marek Dolezaj. During SU’s three game winning streak, he’s averaged 9.3 points and 11.3 rebounds, and has given the Orange an inside presence on the offensive end they’ve been missing for the majority of the season.
That has, in part, opened more room for Buddy Boeheim, who was named Atlantic Coast Conference Co-Player of the Week after averaging 24 points in two wins last week.
This is another coin flip game, with Syracuse ranked at 52 in the KenPom rankings, and Notre Dame at 60. What’s even more remarkable is that both teams are struggling in the luck category, with the Irish at 281 and the Orange at 275.
Notre Dame won the previous 50/50 matchup, so I give this game to Syracuse, edging the Irish in a 76-73 contest.